Need some perspective on possible contract work with a publisher
TheArtBard last edited by TheArtBard
Howdy all! Hope all's well!
So - exciting news~! I've been reaching out to publishers to offer my kids book illustration services.
After 6 days, one of them replied to me. They said they think me talented and would love to work with me. Sweet
They sent me a basic version of their usual contracts.
Less awesome news:
I know a bit about contracts and fees and payment terms to know that their contract isn't awesome.
Here's what they sent me:
"We pay our illustrators the same way we pay our authors - with a small royalty advance and then 10% on hardcover sales and 8% on paperback sales. We know that some artists choose not to work within this pay structure and that's ok."
Personally - it all depends on what that "small royalty advance" is, numbers wise.
I'm trying to break into the industry, so if the number is reasonable, I'm open to working with them.
I've seen their book selection and it's clear to me that they don't pay their artists their worth because the illustrations aren't great, which creates that cycle: lower quality art = lower sales = less income = less money for development = lower quality art, and so on.
Perhaps I can offer them a simpler version of my art, relative to the advance royalty they offer me?
What would y'all do?
And of course they replied to me after 6 days, so chances are decent that another publisher may want to work with me and will compensate me more. They're also open to questions and feedback, so there may be some wiggle room.
Lots to consider...
I'll attach the basic contract if y'all'd like
All the best~
Melissa_Bailey last edited by
@TheArtBard it's exciting that you're reaching out to publishers and getting some feedback!
Could you clarify some things for us so we can better understand the entire situation?
- Does this publisher have a specific project that they want to work with you on?
- Is this a publisher who has a solid reputation and will help you break into the industry?
- Do you feel comfortable sharing who the publisher is?
At this point, with just the information you've given us so far, all I'll say is if you don't feel comfortable working under those contract terms, the publisher is not willing to negotiate terms, and/or they're not a publisher who will help take your career in the direction you want it to go -- you may want to think long and hard about whether this is the opportunity you're looking for.
Heyhey @Melissa-Bailey-0 Thanks for your feedback! And thank you! Yes, I'm very excited! This bodes well~
And sure thing, I'm happy to clarify
- The publisher hasn't mentioned a project yet. I'm getting the sense that they want to see if I'm okay with the payment arrangement before they tell me about any project.
- This is Lawley Publishing - https://www.lawleypublishing.com/ I didn't want to name them because I didn't want to cast shade on their illustrators with what I'd said earlier about the quality of work seen, but eh, oh well. I live with a teacher and she's seen the books and tells me it's a standard quality for the younger crowd (up to 2nd grade). Thoughts? Maybe I just... have done a lot of scoping around the market and have seen some really excellent kids book illustrations elsewhere, so the quality of those here is sort of a red flag for me...
The contract itself seems rather standard. There are a few number inconsistencies I'll bring up, but those aren't the red flags.
I keep weighing it out, and keep coming back to "well, what's that advance royalty number?", cause that'll make all the difference to me. Really, my goal is to be paid to make art, but as you say, I don't want to jump the gun. I get a sense that the publisher will negotiate terms a little bit if they really want to work with me. But if, when I tell them what I need, they won't negotiate, then yeah, I'll have to turn them down. Hmmm...
Thanks again for your feedback! Hope you're doing well!
All the best,
Melissa_Bailey last edited by
@TheArtBard thanks for clarifying, Shani! And thanks for sharing more info about the publisher.
This is a publisher I've never heard of, so I can't share any firsthand information -- that's not saying that they're not legit, because there are hundreds of small and vanity publishers out there! If you want to find out more about them (or another publisher), you can check out SCBWI's market survey in The Book -- if they show up in that survey, they're a pretty safe bet because they've been vetted by SCBWI (scbwi.org). You can also check out the Children's Book Council (cbcbooks.org) to find out more about a publisher. Googling works, too -- it's amazing what a Google search can bring up!
Another thing you may want to do is contact a few authors or illustrators who have worked with a publisher to see what their experience was like working with them. Would they recommend the publisher or not?
Here's the thing that concerns me: they haven't actually offered you work yet.
If they're interested enough to respond to your submission, why aren't they approaching you with an offer? Is there a book they have in mind for you? Why aren't they sharing it to see if it's something you'd even be interested in working on? Why start off with talk of vague "small advances" and royalty payments? Why haven't they shared specific information?
And here's the most important question: if you're seeing red flags, is this really a publisher you want to work with?
Pay attention to red flags, don't disregard them or minimize them. Listen to that inner voice, it might be trying to tell you something.
@TheArtBard Normally, 10% royalty on sales with a publisher is a pretty good deal. However, if you're getting the feeling that the sales will be low, then it might not be worth it. If it's 10% of $5000 of sales, that'd be only $500 for you. Yikes! I think right now you need more info before you can make a decision. Ask them what their advance is, what their usual print run size is, average revenue for one of their books and if they have a specific project in mind for you. The answer to those questions will make the path forward a lot clearer
Good points of course
I've googled some of their books and it looks like they're sold in all major bookstores (in print and digital).
Indeed, I first heard of them on the "Our Members" section of the SCBWI site (I became a member over the summer and it's been very helpful in getting industry contacts), so I feel ya, they seem legit.
I've never heard of "The Book" though, so thanks for pointing that out! I'll look into it! And for the tip about the CBC! Very helpful~
Good point about contacting other illustrators who have worked with them!
I hear you on the vague details being a red flag. It does seem like they're trying to see if I'm okay with their terms before they tell me any specific details. Which, in part makes sense, and also sounds like they're looking for a certain... caliber? of illustrators and don't want to waste their time on somebody who might take a pass on their given terms. I'll definitely ask them if they have a specific project in mind (as well as other details to help with the decision making :)).
For sure, I hear you on the whole 'listen to your gut' thing. I'm rather new to the industry, so maybe I'm seeing red flags, maybe I'm not. I'll definitely be able to decide on that when I ask them more questions. But you're right, if the red flags stay up, I'm gonna take a pass on them.
Thanks again! It's super helpful to have multiple perspectives on this! I appreciate you taking the time to shed a little light
WOW - these are critical questions you've outlined! Thanks very much for raising them! Your 10% | $5000 | $500 example is really helpful!
I checked out their markets and it seems they sell their books at Barnes and Nobles, Target, ABC books, on Amazon, and similar venues - that's a HUGE reach! I feel like my art quality would do its job in selling the book, and if I am among the better of their artists, I could put myself in a valuable position for any future projects of their - a position to negotiate better terms (if necessary).
And good point on the print run size, advance payment, expected average ROI, and intended project! As you say, those will be the key factors in my decision making moving forward. If it all checks out and I end up moving forward working with them, it'll be my first major step into the publishing industry and feel it'll open up even more doors for me....
That was very helpful, thank you Ness! I'll get back to y'all as I know more! Y'all rock!
Happy Sunday and happy drawing!